Planning Department Requirements

In most parts of the United States, it will be a necessity to acquire a building permit in order to construct a new pole barn. The easy way to find out is to contact the local authorities to find out if indeed this is the case.

Whether a structural building permit will be required or not, there is some homework to be done before ever considering contacting anyone to get pricing on a new building.

Don’t worry –the homework is not difficult and there is no final exam!

Call the local Planning Department.

In the event no Planning Department is listed in the directory, a call to city hall, or the county courthouse can get one directed to the proper authorities. Just let them know a new building is being considered, and they will tell you what you need to do to satisfy any local requirements.

When the planning folks are reached, give them the physical address or parcel number where the building being thought about will be constructed.

Tell them what you would like to build.

Use of the building as well as the approximate foot print size is the place to start. Let them know where on the parcel the building will ideally be placed.

Ask the planning people what restrictions there may be on a new building. Is it limited in size or in height? How far away must it be located from other buildingBuilding Permit/Engineerings, property lines, streets, sewer lines, septic systems or drain fields. Are there any other restrictions which could prohibit the building from being constructed? Are there restrictions on roofing and/or siding types, materials or colors?

While a telephone call will often handle most of these questions, it may be necessary to draw a scaled drawing of the property. If so, this drawing should show all property lines, existing structures, the new proposed building, as well as anything else which may be a possible impediment. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but please do use regular sheets of plain white paper, and not your local coffee shop napkins or paper towels!

A personal visit to the Planning Department, with this drawing in hand, should help to get all of the answers needed, in order to move on to the next step.

A hint – if told there are restrictions which would keep the ideal building from being able to be built, ask what processes exist to be able to move past some or all of these “objections”. Sometimes it’s just a matter of filing for a special type of permit or “variance”, and having your local commissioners vote on it.  You’d be surprised how many local jurisdictions have laws or rules which are “behind the times” and are happy to discuss changing them to better suit the public.

I’ve found some Planning Departments are allowed to administratively go “beyond the rules” right there at the counter, without the need for costly and time consuming hearings. One example is within the City limits of Spokane, Washington. The largest detached accessory building which can be constructed within the city limits is 1000 square feet, however if asked at the counter, this footprint can be increased by 10%, right then and there!

As my Daddy used to tell me, “the asking is for free”, so don’t be shy.  Often the planning department official is not going to offer this information, so it’s up to you to ask lots of questions.  If you see other buildings in the same area as your building site similar to what you want to build, you can bet someone else figured out “the right questions to ask”.

6 thoughts on “Planning Department Requirements

  1. I couldn’t find anything specific other than set back requirements and concern for snow load (about 300″ per year).

  2. The only changes that may accrue is on the metal color. My wife would like it to be close in color to the house. Closing is apx August 1st I will let you know right after that.
    thank you for your time
    Steve R Smith

  3. Thank you for your reply. I am mostly interested in the approximately cost of a 3000 sf building of the type I inquired about. I have got an approximate kit cost from another supplier for 3-500,000. Seems a bit extreme. I’m not looking for the Taj Mahal, just a simple pole barn divided into two sections. One for living and one for work. If you are only supplying the materials and floor plan I can work with that. My need is to determine if this project is even feasible for the $175,000 budget I have. I can contact a contractor and get an approximation of the construction cost in the area of actual construction. Any information you can give me would be appreciated.


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